I joined the Oliver King Foundation in Parliament to show my support for mandatory defibrillators in schools. Oliver King tragically died after suffering cardiac arrest at the age of 12 at King David High School. This is a devolved issue in Scotland but it is an issue I keep a close interest in given the tragic deaths in the constituency in the last few years and the local Jamie Skinner Defib Campaign.
Life-saving skills should be a compulsory element in our schools and I think young people should also have access to emergency first aid training, including Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), by the time they have left school. I welcome the work in this area by organisations such as the British Heart Foundation (BHF), British Red Cross and St John Ambulance. The BHF has emphasised that 80% of the 30,000 annual out of hospital cardiac arrests happen in the home, so it is important that more children leave school knowing how to save a life.
The Red Cross has also estimated that only 20% of our secondary school students currently learn first aid skills in the classroom and that less than 13% of pupils get some form of CPR training at school.
There is currently no statutory requirement for schools to teach first aid, although the guidance for both Citizenship lessons for children aged 7-11 and Personal Social Health and Economic Education (PSHE) for all secondary school pupils) encourages the teaching of health and safety and basic emergency first aid procedures.
I believe that all schools should be able to use curriculum freedoms to provide opportunities for public health programmes. This could include working with the voluntary sector, where appropriate, to ensure children get access to this important training.
I also believe we need to consider wider action to improve awareness of emergency life-saving skills and of how to reduce sudden cardiac deaths by developing, for example, a plan for more defibrillators in major public places.
I am aware that there is currently a UK Parliament and Government petition regarding this matter.which has attracted over 2,500 signatures. If it attracts 10,000 signatures, the Government is required to respond to the petition, and it can be considered by the House of Commons Petitions Committee for a debate if it receives over 100,000 signatures.